Reviewed on this page:
When The Night Is Over - Otra Nota - Todo A Su Tiempo -
Contra La Corriente - Marc Anthony - Libre - Mended - Amar Sin Mentiras
Nuyorican singer Marc Anthony has a straight-ahead, unpretentious
approach to singing that's refreshing. He got his start singing in English, working with Latin
freestyle artists like Sa-Fire, then switched to salsa and became a big star.
For several years in the mid-90s, he could do no wrong, setting the standard for modern salsa
(along with India) with unforgettable, dramatic mini-epics like "Te Conozco Bién" and "Nadie Como Ella."
Since then he's alternated between English- and Spanish-language releases, with varying degrees of success, and frequently has generated more interest with his high-profile romantic entanglements than with his music.
On the side, he's appeared in some films, and recently took a stab at Broadway, playing the
lead in Paul Simon's ill-fated "The Capeman."
At his best, he's loaded with talent (co-writing and co-producing much of his best work) and impossible to keep in one bag, recording high-energy salsa, sweeping ballads and some authentic regional styles. (DBW)
When The Night Is Over (Little Louie Vega and Marc Anthony: 1991)
Primarily a showcase for "Little" Louie Vega's production skills; he cowrote most of the tracks,
and many of them are in his signature Latin hip hop style, with not much role for Marc Anthony
("Ride On The Rhythm," which hit #1 on Billboard's dance chart, and was coproduced by Kenny Gonzalez). Then there are some dreadful ballads, including "Walk Away" by Diane
Warren and Michael Bolton, and the silly message-laden "Name Of The Game" by Dan Hartman & Charlie Midnight. Throughout, Marc Anthony's vocals are
subdued; Vega's then-wife India - who cowrote most of the material - blows
him away during her brief vocal interjections. Legends Tito Puente and Eddie
Palmieri are wasted on the instrumental "Masters At Work," as the live instruments play
second fiddle (sorry) to Vega's formulaic drum programming. The good news is the title track, a
funky love song with telepathic live bass (Carl James) and drums (J.T. Lewis), and a memorable, dramatic climax, that's
reason alone to pick this album up, if you find it cheap. (DBW)
Otra Nota (1993)
When offered the opportunity to record a salsa album with Sergio
George, he jumped at the chance; George arranged everything here, though
his only composition is "Juego O Amor?" There's some fine danceable
stuff, like the instantly familiar "Palabras Del Alma" and Jaime
Gutiérrez' "Si Tu No Te Fueras," but the record's high point is a
cover of Mexican balladeer Juan Gabriel's "Hasta Que Te Conocí,"
redone in the lush salsa style George perfected with Tito Nieves' "De Mí Enamorate."
There's some filler here ("Si He De Morir"), and the obligatory
English-language tune is an incredibly slow reading of the early 70s Bread hit
"Make It With You," done much better by Earth Wind & Fire, but this
is still a hell of a good value - unsurprisingly, it sold millions of copies. (DBW)
Todo A Su Tiempo (1995)
A solid step forward; Marc Anthony's voice is clearer in the mix, the arrangements (all by George
again) are varied and interesting (including the traditional "Hasta Ayer"), and the tunes
are mostly excellent: the emotional, stop-start "Te Conozco Bién" (by Omar Alfanno) was the
kind of hit you heard everywhere you went but still didn't get tired of;
"Por Amar Se Da Todo" is a groove that doesn't let up; "Nadie Como Ella"
is a bit obvious but very catchy. And Marc Anthony's one of the few
current male singers who can really make you believe in a sappy ballad
like "Y Sigues Siendo Tú." You can't go wrong with this one.
Contra La Corriente (1997)
George had moved on, and Angel "Cucco" Peña stepped up to the plate as producer and primary
arranger. The bad news is, Peña slavishly imitates the formula of the previous album: "Si Te Vas"
copies the breaks and anthemic fade of "Te Conozco," "No Me Conoces" (by Fernando Arias) is an acoustic guitar
ballad recalling "Hasta Ayer," "Me Voy A Regalar" (by Alfanno) uses George's trademark funk bass, and so on. The good news is, the tunes are solid - not a loser in
the bunch - and Marc Anthony's vocals have gotten stronger and more compelling with age.
This is a safe bet all around (Con La Corriente would have made a more appropriate title):
he didn't take any chances but it's surefire entertainment. Reversing the trend toward greater
control, Marc Anthony didn't do any arranging or writing this time out. (DBW)
Marc Anthony (1999)
With less-talented singers like Ricky Martin and Jennifer Lopez selling to the English-language
market in huge numbers, it seemed like a natural for Marc to cut his own crossover album. He even co-wrote most of the
cuts. But the project doesn't show him in his best light: there are too many politely sung ballads with no discernable
melody ("Am I The Only One," "Don't Let Me Leave," both written with and produced by Walter
Afanasieff), hardly any salsa ("That's Okay"), and a few impersonal if pleasant dance tracks ("I Need To Know," "She's Been Good
To Me"). Much of the blame must go to Cory Rooney, who produced the lion's share of the disc and co-wrote much of it:
he has no distinctive style and no ear for catchy hooks. The biggest shame is that Marc Anthony never really gets to cut
loose as a vocalist: if you start here, you'll get no sense of why his Spanish-language discs were so successful. There
are three cuts in Spanish: alternate versions of "I Need To Know" and "She's Been Good To Me," and Emilio Estefan's
"Da La Vuelta," an enjoyable salsa produced by Estefan, Cucco Peña and Marc Anthony. (DBW)
A quality return to salsa. Marc Anthony produced and arranged, with Juan A. Gonzalez, and also co-wrote everything except "Barco A La Deriva" - written by José Florez and César Valle and featuring Andean flutes, it
may be an attempt to win over the huge fan base of Colombian neotraditionalist Carlos Vives.
He follows the same basic formula - start slow and acoustic, then speed up and build to an anthemic climax - on nearly every track ("Celos," "Hasta Que Vuelves Conmigo"). Still, it hardly matters, because every song is tuneful ("De Qué
Depende" less than the others), and the empathic band continually toys with the basic premise (the wandering trombone on "Hasta Que Vuelves Conmigo").
Less variety than his two previous Latin outings - there is one bolero, "Caminaré," written with Estefan - but it's still plenty listenable.
Musicians include Gonzalez (piano), ubiquitous percussionist Marc Quiñones, Yomo Toro (cuatro), Erben Pérez (bass), Ozzie Meléndez and Alberto Martínez (horns).
Another English-language disc, similar to Marc Anthony but with less variety: Almost everything is driven by acoustic guitar strumming, both the ballads ("She Mends Me") and the uptempo cuts (the calculated "I've Got You," also present in a Spanish version). There are a lot more of the former than the latter, many verging on pure schmaltz ("Do You Believe In Loneliness").
Again, Rooney produced and co-wrote most of the tracks, and again, they're predictable and bland... there's a long soggy stretch where it's hard to tell one tune from the next ("I Need You").
Marc Anthony does get to flex his pipes a bit more ("Everything You Do," which he co-wrote) but he's fighting a losing battle.
Amar Sin Mentiras (2004)
An album of slow love songs, a common vice of otherwise tasteful Spanish-language singers (see Olga Tañon).
There are some bright spots - "Amigo" has a memorable melody and nice guitar soloing from José Luis Pagan; the title track builds to an anthemic climax - but basically it's a long, slow slog. (There is one lively tune, "Valió La Pena," which sounds like it belonged on Mended.)
Produced and mostly written by Estéfano, and the principal arrangers are Pagan and Julio Reyes; they sneak in the occasional surprise (carefully orchestrated strings on "Se Esfuma Tu Amor"; electronica-style keyboard eddies on "Nada Personal" - but the songs are just dull ("Ahora Quien").
If you heard the single "Escapémonos," a themeless, pulseless duet with Jennifer Lopez (whom he married shortly after the album's release), you know what to expect.
Valió La Pena (2004)
Salsa remakes of seven tracks from Amar Sin Mentiras, plus a run through Rafael Hernández's "Lamento Borincano."
Sigo Siendo Yo (2006)
A greatest hits with two new tunes. (DBW)
El Cantante (2007)
Soundtrack from the film, in which he starred as Héctor Lavoe. I haven't heard this but I did see the movie, and although he can (of course) sing his butt off and (of course) the songs are classics ("Che Che Colé") he's so intent on channeling Lavoe he loses himself in the process.
Marc Anthony produced with George.
Just for non-fun, co-star Lopez sings the Nelly Furtado-penned pop tune "Toma De Mi."
Another tribute album, this time remaking ballads by Gabriel, José José, and others.
Finally, Marc Anthony and I agree on a rating.
Another straight-up salsa album with George, with the same approach as their 90s work: Mostly love songs with bite ("Cambio De Piel"), lots of horns and piano with touches of funk bass, and a few changes of pace (the acoustic throwback "La Copa Rota").
Marc Anthony's voice is strong as ever ("Espera"), and George can still pull off some striking arranging effects: Just when you think the romantic "Flor Pálida" is going to upshift into horn-backed montuno, it mellows out with a Carlos Vives-style handclapped chorus.
Neither Marc Anthony nor George wrote any of the songs, and the work contributed by a pack of hired guns is unexceptional ("Cautivo De Este Amor").
So although there are no instant classics like "Hasta Que Te Conocí" and it's not on the level of, say, George's recent work with Luis Enrique, the entire disc is solidly rewarding (the single "Vivir Mi Vida" - Marc, if there's a way to live someone else's life instead of your own, please let me know what it is).
Si te vas...